As I drive to and from CFC every day, I can’t help but notice people jogging/running. It’s certainly a good thing that they are exercising and getting fresh air, but the bad thing is, they don’t look very fit. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud their effort and their intention; it’s just I think they are not being smart about what they are trying to do. They either want to be fit and healthy, and/or they want to lose weight. And, they think this is perfect, because of the money they are saving – all they need are a pair of good running shoes.

Problem is, running will get them some results, but with a price. When they plateau (which they will), they will either quit out of frustration, boredom or injury, or they will likely try to increase the frequency and/or distance, which will get them to an over-use injury even faster.

I used to run regularly, training every year for the New Haven Labor Day Road Race (20K, which is 12.4 miles). Of course this is what every exercise enthusiast did back then, along with the pre-race day Pasta dinner (when the conventional wisdom was to gorge on carbs as part of a
training program so that one wouldn’t “bonk” — or gas out — before the finish line). And we now know how flawed that wisdom is now!

Same deal with running as your primary method of exercise. The runners who come to CFC usually don’t last. My theory is once out of their comfort zone, they don’t like not being good at what they do. So they quit and go back to the only thing they know: running.

The runners who come in here, from my observations, have poor flexibility and very limited range of motion. Once taken past their range of motion (which is their running stride), they are frustrated. Tight hamstrings are no fun. Almost every one of them is nursing some over training injury: bad backs, shin splints, sore knees, plantar fasciitis, etc. To compound the problem, when asked to do anything involving
upper body strength, their weakness is again exposed. Unable to engage their core and open their hips, they are chagrined at their efforts and poor performance. Even more embarrassing for them is when they are asked to row or jump rope. Again, because they consider themselves endurance athletes, they believe they will excel. When they realize they are not a whole lot better once taken out of the narrow environment of running, their ego is damaged. Most leave.

They want to go back to what they feel they are good at, which is natural. Unfortunately, they will never progress in their fitness level. It is like someone who learns one song on a musical instrument. They may play that one song very well, and they will surely play it often. Being able to exercise well in one domain and thinking you are a fit athlete is like being able to play only one song and thinking you are a

Bone density increase? Lift weight.
Burn more calories over a longer period of time? Lift weight.
Improve your build and figure? Lift weight.
Increase lean muscle mass? Lift weight.

Go to a local road race, preferably a 10K or longer, and take a look at the top finishers above the age of 30. Look at their posture, watch them walk, study their faces, examine their builds. You will not be impressed. Most look aged and weathered, have thin arms, sunken chests and rounded shoulders, and tend to limp or shuffle when they walk. This is elite health and fitness? And if you think you have to log a lot of miles to get ready for that long run you have always had you heart set on, follow this link: http://journal.crossfit.com/2009/02/training-2-miles-to-run-100.tpl.

It turns conventional wisdom upside down and makes a compelling argument for the superiority of CrossFit training.

Post Script: Since writing this, two CFC members shared recent personal stories that I would like to pass on.

One of our members (early 50s) told me she used to run regularly and traditionally enters several local road races every year. Since starting her CrossFit training here (member since January of 2009), she runs occasionally now, but does the WODs regularly. Her last 5K race gave resulted in her best time ever — and this was after coming off of a nasty cold and running in heavy rain. Anyone who is middle age or older can appreciate how hard it is to not watch our running times inch higher every year — to be able to get our best time ever is nothing short of miraculous!

Another CFC member (early 40s) related to me that one of his buddies — at the last minute — invited him to join him at the recent Litchfield 7.1 mile Road Race (which is quite hilly). Our member’s friend, mind you, had been training four months for this particular race, while our CFC member has been training here since October of 2010. Our CFC member finished a full 10 minutes ahead of his friend. Mind you, this was the longest he had ever run in his life.

And let’s not forget that at last year’s Warrior Dash, our group took on the mountain and did exceptionally well. There were large groups of organized running clubs and track teams in attendance, and based upon our placements within our age divisions, we were all within the top 10% of our age groups. If this is not irrefutable evidence of the effectiveness of CrossFit training, I don’t know what is.

“2010 Fitness Trends: Efficient, Cheap and Trendy”

Several of the topics addressed in the recently published “2010 Fitness Trends” pertain directly to CrossFit training. The American Council on Exercise made specific mention of four areas that are already incorporated into CrossFit training: Time Efficient Workouts, Group Training, Importance of Proper Professional Credentials, and Boomer Specific Programs.

Time-Efficient Workouts for the Time-Pressured American: Shorter yet higher-intensity workouts will be more appealing to those with busy schedules because they can reap significant fitness rewards with relatively minimal time investment. Boot-camp style workouts will continue to be one of the most popular of these trends in 2010, offering the ability to burn sufficiently large number of calories while simultaneously improving muscular fitness. Circuit training will also be a time-efficient workout of choice due to its combined strength and endurance activities.

Our Workouts of the Day (WODs) at CFC are typically between 15 and 30 minutes, so that from the time a class begins — including the warm up, skill review session, and workout — one is out the door in less than an hour. That is effective and efficient use of time.

Importance of Proper Professional Credentials: Health and fitness clubs are recognizing the need for, and the importance of, hiring trainers who hold high-quality, reputable professional credentials.

We currently have five coaches at CFC who lead every class. Each is CrossFit Level I certified, and each has an extensive background in physical fitness and training; three have additional CrossFit certifications in Nutrition, Olympic Lifting, Gymnastics and Barbell.

Group Training: Individuals will scale back on personal training sessions to take advantage of small-group training and group class participation as another way to save on expenses. Health clubs may alter some programs to better suit the needs of larger groups. Likewise, individuals may find that the group setting offers additional motivation and support of their fitness efforts.

Our classes are held 3 or 4 times a day, which keeps the numbers low. This way, everyone in the class is getting the personal attention of the coach. Members who take classes tend to have a higher attendance rate than those who train on their own, as they enjoy the camaraderie and support from the group, along with the instruction and assistance of a coach.

Boomer-Specific Programs: Special fitness programming for aging adults will remain a strong trend next year. Growing numbers of boomers recognize the multitude of benefits that come along with regular exercise participation, from lowering blood pressure and cholesterol to maintaining one’s functional independence and overall well being.

At CFC, over half of our adult members are over age 40, with several in their 60’s. CrossFit training is for everyone, as all of the workouts can be modified, or “scaled”, to one’s level of fitness. So please don’t use age as an excuse — it doesn’t fly. You’ll have to do better than that…

To view the entire article, click here.

“Baby Boomers May Face High Disability Rates”

Baby Boomers May Face High Disability Rates
by Shari Roan
Taken from http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-sci-disabilities

“Even in older age, people have an amazing ability to change behavior and for that to change health risk,” said lead author Teresa E. Seeman, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. “If we don’t do anything, we’re going to face an older population that is bigger and much more disabled.”

Read this entire article, which explains why — if we are to enjoy our “golden years”, we need to make fitness a priority now.

Americans entering their 70s today are experiencing more disabilities in old age than did the previous generation, researchers announced Thursday. The shift in health fortunes comes as a surprise and predicts future high disability rates for the baby boomers as well.

The study is the first to foretell the end of a two-decade trend in which people appeared to be functioning better in old age than those who came before, said lead author Teresa E. Seeman, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine.

The oldest people in the survey had grown up with better nutrition and had better medical treatments, resulting in less disability, Seeman said. “The hope was, this was a portent of good things to come as this population got larger. But ours is the first data to suggest disability rates may be going up. If it’s true, it certainly suggests the baby boomers, whatever health benefits they’ve enjoyed up until now, may not enjoy such a rosy older age.”

Seeman and her colleagues compared data from two large national health and nutrition surveys, one conducted from 1988 to 1994 and another from 1999 to 2004. Among people 80 and older, the data showed improvements in disability rates over time, especially among women. There was no change in disability rates among people in their 70s. However, disability rates rose among people in their 60s.

Disability measurements assess how well an individual can perform daily activities, such as walking up a flight of stairs, managing personal finances and performing household chores.

The study, funded by the National Institute on Aging and published in the American Journal of Public Health, doesn’t explain why more people are becoming disabled as they enter their later years. But, Seeman said, rising levels of obesity appear to be the major factor; the greatest increases in disabilities were among non-whites and people who were obese or overweight.

“Normal-weight individuals do not show a trend of increasing disabilities,” she said. “It does seem to be that the increase is restricted to the groups that are overweight and obese. But part of the problem is that more and more people are overweight and obese.”

Obesity affects health in a number of ways, said Ellen L. Idler, a professor of sociology and epidemiology at Emory University and a gerontology expert. She was not involved in the study.

“The strain of excess weight on joints, the cardiovascular effects — definitely. Trends in obesity would lead you to expect more disabilities,” she said.

More people today survive heart attacks and strokes but may be left with related disabilities, she added. And with obesity rates even higher among younger and middle-age people, disability rates may continue to climb, Idler said.

Public health efforts targeting obesity may be the best way to address disabilities, Seeman said. But specific therapies and lifestyle changes can also help people regain their ability to function normally.

“Even in older age, people have an amazing ability to change behavior and for that to change health risk,” she said. “If we don’t do anything, we’re going to face an older population that is bigger and much more disabled.”